Heritage conference explores impact of Brexit on Irish museum sector
What impact will the UK’s decision to leave the EU have on museums on the Irish border? That’s one of the key questions to be explored as part of ‘Do Borders Matter? The Role of Museums and Heritage in Crossing the Line’, a conference hosted by the Local Authority Museums Network (LAMN) at the County Museum Dundalk.
Part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and supported by the Heritage Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the conference brings together a host of Irish and international speakers from the arts, cultural and heritage sector, academia and journalism to explore different aspects of how borders impact on communities and cultures, challenges experienced by border museums, and how successful heritage and museum curation can help facilitate dialogue between divided communities.
Commenting, curator of County Museum Dundalk, Brian Walsh said: “Following the vote in the UK in favour of Brexit, the Local Authority Museums Network, which represents the 12 local authority museums in the Republic of Ireland, has been discussing the potential challenges that this new reality will pose to the network and the entire museum sector on the island of Ireland, north and south. Some of the key issues that the sector will face include the potential challenge to the movement of objects between museums on both sides of the border and, indeed, that of free movement of staff.
“However, we also recognise the opportunity the Brexit debate presents to raise the profile of the museum sector in relation to its role as a centre of social cohesion in society today. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and since 1998, members of the Local Authority Museums Network, including the border museums in Donegal, Cavan, Louth and Monaghan, have availed of the Peace and Reconciliation Fund to host several major peace-focused projects. Through the many years of working on these projects, we have discovered the transformative effects of museum services on the communities in our respective regions.
“We have found that our museums have developed into centres which have allowed us to challenge our concepts of self-identity, to ask awkward questions of ourselves and of others, where our collections have facilitated and informed a meaningful dialogue between divided communities. This is the potential that the use of history and heritage has to act as a catalyst for positive social change, community development and peace-building. This is not about what divides us, but what connects us and how we can develop a language about our past, and ultimately our future.”
Topics up for discussion range from an examination of the history of the border on the island of Ireland and its cultural impact to examples of how photography and storytelling have been used to address issues pertaining to the Troubles. Conference speakers include former Minister of Culture of Romania and President of the Transylvania Trust, Csilla Hegedus, who will speak about projects that have allowed the public explore the multiple perspectives of history and culture in Romania; and representatives from the museum sector, including Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Lynn Scarff and Director of the Northern Ireland Museums Council, Sinead McCartan, who will discuss how the border has impacted the development of museum collections and the nature of cultural heritage on the island of Ireland, and what direction this could take post-Brexit. The conference will also hear from arts practitioners, including singer Brendan Murphy from The Four of Us and visual artist Paul Woods on how the Irish border has affected their lives and work.
National Coordinator for the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Beatrice Kelly said: “What we are discussing today is how heritage is not only something we can all enjoy, but also something that plays a very important role is supporting social cohesion, both within national borders and across Europe. It does so by shaping identity and building a shared sense of belonging that can transcend physical borders. Highlighting the potential of heritage to create strong ties and make connections is one of the key objectives of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and today’s conference presents a fantastic platform to discuss and explore this potential.”
‘Do Borders Matter? The Role of Museums and Heritage in Crossing the Line’ will conclude today at 4pm. Further information and the full line-up of speakers can be found here.